Kala Sinkhar, Hindustani.
I quite agree with Hume that the name of "falcated," applied generally to this bird, is not English and is misleading; but I cannot follow him in calling it a teal, for its size is so much larger than that of any teal, and its affinities to the gadwall so obvious, that that term is misleading also. Indeed, the female is almost exactly like the gadwall female, though easy enough to recognize if one remembers that it has the wing-bar black instead of white, the feet grey instead of orange, and the bill all black, not orange-bordered.
The full-plumaged drake, with his lovely silky-crested head of green and bronze, his white neck crossed by a dark-green collar, and the bunch of long curved feathers in each wing— it is these that are "falcated" or sickle-shaped, not the bird—is at once distinguishable from all other ducks. The general plumage is grey at a distance, but close at hand is seen to be made up of pencil-lings of black and white, as in most grey-looking ducks. The black and yellow tail-coverts conceal the tail, and give the bird a very stump-ended look; in fact, in life it is not so beautiful as artists make it, but looks thick-headed and top-heavy, lovely as its plumage looks in the dead specimen. It is also, in captivity at any rate, very quiet and uninteresting.
The weight of a male is about a pound and a half; his note is a whistle, while the duck has the ordinary quack, five times repeated.
This bird breeds in Siberia and winters in Japan and south eastern Asia, including India; as Hume very accurately suggested it might be, it certainly is commoner in India than the clucking teal, a bird of similar range, although it is certainly one of our rarities still. Hume had got no less than five specimens of it by the time he published his account in the " Game-birds " at the end of the seventies, nearly all of them in Oudh; but it has since been found further east, as far as Upper Burma and Manipur. The Calcutta Bazaar is a good place to get it; one of Hume's five came from there, and from 1897 onwards for the next four or five years I never missed seeing it, and in 1900 and 1901 it could fairly be called common. I have seen a dozen or more in a good season, but I should say not twenty-five per cent, were males. The male in undress, by the way, is almost exactly like the female, but has the inner quills black and grey,, rather like their colouring, when long and curved, in the full plumage; the true sickle feathers, like the Mandarin's fans, do-not appear till the rest of the plumage is perfect. Fresh-caught birds are very wild, and the species is said to be a strong flyer.